Why men’s mental health needs to become a priority at work

Ben Binder – founder of The Fitness Works – shares two ways HR can start to make men’s mental health a priority

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Ben Binder – founder of The Fitness Works – shares two ways HR can start to make men’s mental health a priority

“Man up.” How many times has this been said to you? How many times have you said this to a colleague, friend, or family member? It’s a phrase that’s been heavily used by many of us to dismiss how someone feels, but in today’s society, it’s time to stop using this phrase and time to start encouraging all people, especially men, to express their emotions and focus on their mental health.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 70 million workdays are lost each year due to mental health problems, costing UK employers approximately £2.4 billion per year. While the pandemic has raised awareness of mental health issues and has encouraged HR teams to take more action to support employees with their mental health, more still needs to be done to improve men’s mental health in particular.

Men are still less likely to receive mental health support compared to women – despite the fact that three times as many men as women die by suicide – which stresses the fact that we should continue to teach and show men that it’s ok to open up. This, however, is easier said than done in the workplace.

To make a real change towards improving men’s mental health, HR teams need to realise that a “one size fits all” approach does not work. Instead, they need to take relevant action to prioritise men’s mental health.

Encourage physical exercise

Physical health has been proven to massively impact mental health by improving your sleep and giving you more energy. The idea that “physical health can be done alone” is not the right attitude to have. It’s not always easy to find the motivation to exercise but having the support of your peers provides an incentive to get involved. A sense of togetherness created through exercise helps to break down some of the barriers that usually exist in the workplace. This bond between colleagues will contribute to a positive change in mental health.

Focus on wellbeing

Wellbeing needs to be encouraged and driven from the top. HR teams have had to take on new roles and responsibilities, as a result of the pandemic, but should also ensure that wellbeing stays a top priority.

By getting senior leadership teams involved with mental health initiatives, other employees are likely to follow and take steps to focus on their mental health. HR teams who take the path of engraving a wellbeing strategy into their culture, rather than the ‘take it or leave it’ approach, can show employees that they really care about their health and wellbeing, and that they aren’t just focusing on it temporarily – this can help employees feel valued and happier at work as a result. Burnout days and wellbeing days are all nice to have but for many employees, just being listened to and trusted is enough.

For HR teams, this means simple actions need to be taken to make wellbeing a priority for men. Only then can the entire workforce be better engaged, happier, and productive.

Ben Binder is the founder of The Fitness Works, which provides virtual wellbeing programmes for remote teams.